As mentioned in the previous blog, nicotine causes a reduction in the ability of the immune system to adequately function.
Our bodies respond to bacteria through an inflammatory process: Neutrophils are the main cell which affects this.
Question: What is a Neutrophil?
Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cell – they are an essential part of the immune system. Neutrophils are a type of Phagocyte that is found in the blood stream.
Please note: A Phagocyte is a cell that protects the body by ingesting harmful particles, bacteria or dying cells that are present in our bodies.
Smokers have more Neutrophils in their bodies than non-smokers. This makes sense, because they are the main reparative cells which help when inflammation is present.
However, due to the effects of the nicotine (increased vasoconstriction – see last blog for a definition of vasoconstriction), fewer Neutrophils are able to make it to the gums to do their ‘work’; hence, fewer Neutrophils are able to control the bacteria in the mouth and the chances of gum disease in smokers is increased.
So what now?
The effect of smoking on the gums is reversible, to a certain extent, after one stops smoking. Normal blood flow and healing will occur. However you can’t get back any of the bone and gum tissue that has been lost due to the effects of the nicotine.
So, for all of you smokers out there, don’t despair. Once you quit smoking, healing mechanisms can improve to normal healthier levels.
Yours in good oral health,
Dr. Robert Axelrad, Brampton Dentist